South Tyneside Council’s £200,000 emergency housing payments bill

Council bosses in South Tyneside have had to spend almost £200,000 in just six months on emergency housing payments for vulnerable people - and the problem will get worse says an anti-poverty campaigner

Thursday, 7th February 2019, 4:10 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:32 pm
Department for Work and Pensions rules changes cost South Tyneside Cluncil £200,000 in six months

Department for Work and Pensions figures show that the council spent £194,783, between April and September 2018 helping people on benefits who are struggling to cover housing costs.

The Government awarded the council £584,002 for the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme for the 2018-19 financial year.

Jo Durkin, right, and Angie Comeford of Hebburn Helps

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In the first six months, South Tyneside Borough Council spent a third of its annual budget.

Payments can be awarded to claimants if they have been affected by specific housing policies and could be at risk of homelessness, or if they have emergency costs unrelated to welfare reforms.

South Tyneside Council wished to make no comment on the issue

But Jo Durkin, co-founder of Hebburn Helps - a group which supports struggling families in South Tyneside said: “The situation is already at breaking point with the introduction of Universal Credit and things are only going to get worse.

“It’s great there is money to help people who are finding themselves on the brink of homelessness but it’s nowhere near enough and is only the tip of the iceberg.

“More needs to be done as right now all we are doing is putting a sticking plaster over the wound which is the housing and benefits crisis and hoping it will go away.”

She added: “We need to have more affordable housing and more support for those who are struggling financially. We see it everyday at hebburn Helps, people trying to live under the breadline never mind on it - the government needs to step up and take responsibility and provide the help which is desperately needed.”

Financial assistance charity Turn2us said that while the payments are a “vital source of income” for vulnerable people, they are not a long-term solution to the housing crisis.

Campaigns manager, Matthew Geer, said: “Welfare changes over the last decade are leaving councils increasingly burdened, and funds are only limited.

“While we would welcome increasing the funding for DHPs, this will not solve the problem long-term and ultimately help to change the lives of people who are struggling.

“The Government must stand up and act fast to end the rising tide of homelessness across the country – including building affordable homes, tackling the issue of high rents and ending the ongoing benefits freeze.”

Homelessness charity Crisis said it was concerned that the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme is unsustainable in the long term.

Chief executive, Jon Sparks, said: “To truly prevent people from becoming homeless, we need more than sticking plaster solutions.”